Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

Mama Lulu’s selective high heels of culture: An open letter

Whatever you believe is arts minister, is …

Bhota Mam Lulu,

“Been meaning to write to you for a while now since your dramatic promotion to handle the very complex portfolio of arts and culture for our country and the high level reinforcement through the misdeployment of the former premier of Gauteng. The two of you make an excellent team, by the way. Please forgive me that I am only writing to you now despite the obviously elevated portfolio that you have been assigned to by honourable Msholozi. Your other colleagues’ gaffes have kept me quite busy these past few months. Given his flattering appearance in the UK this past week and the unacceptable cultural attack that the British media has launched on his version of culture in particular, it is now clear why such a high powered team was assigned to this portfolio. It seems your hands are going to be pretty full as you seek to remove any impression that many enlightened people may have, that this was nothing but a demotion for you and a parking lot for your deputy while he defends himself against incorrect allegations of being head of the Alex mafia. There are many who are still wondering whether his being your deputy and not the other way round was a result of a typing or reading error akin to the Absa and DBSA debacle that besmirched the otherwise visionary State of the Nation Address almost delivered by the honorable president of the republic recently. But I digress.

When the president abused culture in explaining away his disgraceful behavior recently, it was no surprise that we did not hear the sound of your high heels walking out of the Cabinet room in protest. But you had every reason. No culture gives men a licence to disgrace their families and certainly no culture gives anyone the right to embarrass this country. If you were in London this week, even you would have cringed as you heard the quips and chuckles of the Brits in their pubs — given what is on everyone’s lips about the presentation of which is simply unacceptable behavior from our head of state as some kind of the defence and elevation of our culture. It can’t be true. You took an oath of office that enjoins you to speak out against all kinds of nonsense regardless of whence it comes. You can’t tell me that Barbara Hogan has more courage than you. You have to call a spade a spade, whether she is in Cabinet or not. How this acquiescence demonstrate your “passion for the status of women” as stated in much aplomb in your profile, Sisis, leaves me confused.

When artists are being ripped off by DVD pirates — who include some of your own political friends who send messengers to buy fake DVD’s from street corners for their model C children — your silence, minister, is loud. When artists associated with the opposition are being denied gigs that are organised at the taxpayer’s expense, you silence is even louder. When artists die like paupers — even after the grandiose promises made before the elections — nothing concrete has occurred other than PR gimmicks where artists were gathered into a big hall and made to feel like you were listening. I wonder what on earth you were elected to Parliament to do. It still truly baffles the living day lights out of me at this stage. Does it mean all interest groups must form a committee before you can listen to them?

For this and the next issue, I want you to help me understand. Let me recommend the Constitution as a bed time reading. It is a very useful little book that tends to indicate what is and what is not acceptable for any minister who has vowed to defend and abide by it. I am sure that in between attending many exhibitions you may not have had time to read it in the detail necessary to appreciate what it enjoins you to do in complex matters of freedom of expression.

It therefore came as a shock to me to learn that you walked out of a place where young women were exhibiting their artwork. Rumour has it that it is because they were gay or something. Ag, I don’t believe any of it. Although I am not sure whether an artist’s impression of how a human being looks like can’t be considered art. I am speaking under correction when I ask you, Mam Lulu, what part of the Constitution would you rely on to rebuke artists’ paintings of any kind. The Times reported that you felt that these were not family time material. Fine. Then get Malusi Gigaba to classify them as such and then they can be displayed accordingly. To walk out and send your PA to read some badly cobbled together speech while you let the country hear your high heels walk off in disapproval — besides being somewhat rude — must rank as the poorest show by any minister of this administration. Maybe when you walk into Parliament your colleagues will clap for you as you join heroes such as Nomaindia Mfeketo in showing the middle finger to freedom of expression. Truly it is a shame.

I don’t think anyone could have guessed that there was anything you can mess up at in portfolio that is so straightforward. But, alas you did. Zapiro, in his recent cartoon, was obviously unkind to suggest that your brain is somewhat on holiday. I disagree with him completely but I cannot imagine walking out of the exhibition where he will display that very painful cartoon that I am sure will win the race-card award from the youth league. I really don’t agree with him — he has a way of rubbing in what we all believe — this is wrong. But it may help for you to apply your mind before you say that amounts to “use it or lose it”. I understand that your relative was a beneficiary of that policy. This may be totally unfounded but  I wonder who now stands to benefit from the cancellation of your appearance at an innocent exhibition? Maybe the organisers did not pay someone in government as-per-usual underhand practice? I’s baffled. I’m making an appeal for you to personally call each one of the artists so that you can apologise for your ignorant behavior. We know that you may well be surrounded by civil servants who may not have a clue what they are doing but this kind of staggering ignorance should have shook even you to seek more understanding about what is going on — or even ask your deputy. Surely you are expected to give him some work?

Will be watching with interest but I am framing this one … I mean the cartoon. Greetings to Bra Paul.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane